Who's got the edge?

Sunday, November 22, 1998

Quarterbacks

Baltimore: Jim Harbaugh just isn't what he was during his "Captain Comeback" days in Indianapolis. Ravens should use Bengal-killer Eric Zeier.

Cincinnati: Paul Justin has the makings of a decent player. But he's operating behind an inconsistent line and possibly without Darnay Scott.

EDGE: Even

Running backs

Baltimore: Bengals made Priest Holmes look like an elite back. His performance since that Sept. 27 game has proven he's far from being one.

Cincinnati: Corey Dillon worked furiously to gain 66 yards on 21 carries last week at Minnesota. He'll have a huge day one of these weeks.

EDGE: Bengals

Wide receivers - tight ends

Baltimore: From one speedster (Randy Moss) to another (Jermaine Lewis) for Cincinnati. Lewis, Michael Jackson and Eric Green are proven Bengal tormentors.

Cincinnati: Bengals will miss Scott, rated doubtful at presstime, who usually thrives against Ravens. Expect Justin to try to involve Pickens early.

EDGE: Ravens

Offensive line

Baltimore: Something's wrong. The Ravens allowed only nine sacks in their first five games, but have permitted 23 in the last five.

Cincinnati: Something's wrong. The Bengals are on pace to allow 56 sacks, their most since 1979 - the year before Anthony Munoz arrived.

EDGE: Ravens

Special teams

Baltimore: Lewis should be an AFC Pro Bowl representative as a punt returner if he doesn't make the squad as a receiver.

Cincinnati: For once, no problems last week. But Lee Johnson must avoid punting down the middle of the field to Lewis.

EDGE: Ravens

Defensive line

Baltimore: Michael McCrary has 12 sacks this season, first in the AFC and third in the league, giving him 33 sacks in his last 32 games.

Cincinnati: The Bengals WISH they had a McCrary. Somehow they must apply fierce pressure to compensate for injury-weakened secondary.

EDGE: Ravens

Linebackers

Baltimore: Peter Boulware and Ray Lewis, both 23, and Jamie Sharper, a day short of turning 24, are as good as they are young.

Cincinnati: Rookies Takeo Spikes and Brian Simmons continue to improve weekly. But they're not in Baltimore's class - yet.

EDGE: Ravens

Defensive backs

Baltimore: Look out, Bengals. Rod Woodson's seven career interceptions against Cincinnati are his most against any team.

Cincinnati: Ashley Ambrose's knee injury severely weakens the Bengals, who'll be hampered if Artrell Hawkins' ankle bothers him.

EDGE: Ravens

Coaching

Baltimore: Ted Marchibroda seems like he wouldn't harm a fly, which might be why the firing rumors keep buzzing around his head.

Cincinnati: Good move by Bruce Coslet to try Justin at quarterback. Nothing to lose now; why not give him a shot?

EDGE: Bengals

The winner

Justin's presence makes it tempting to pick the Bengals. But the last few weeks and the injuries erase all doubts.

Ravens 24, Bengals 20.


- Nomad Justin gets start
- Ravens scouting report
- Players to watch
- By the numbers